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X-DREAMERS [mission 01: ash and sand]

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Grigor nods to Jowan. "Take a seat, would you? You look straight exhausted."


He watches with patience as the other man squeezed his face into several uncertain expressions before finally asking for something to eat and drink. He could see why someone would hesitate to ask, given that the skaa never seemed to have enough food to go around. He is not offended by the request, because addressing a guest's request is all part of proper hospitality. "Of course," he answers Jowan. "Rhonda, would you fetch some soup?"


A skaa woman in a plain dress rises from her chair with an affirmation and heads to the corner of the room where a pot sat over a small fire. She ladles some of its contents and sets onto the table a spoon and a wooden bowl of a warm liquid. It has chunks of tuberous vegetables in it: various roots like potatoes and radishes that are hardy enough to grow in the acidic ashen ground, familiar yet a little different. "It's not very fancy," she says, "but let us know if you need more."


Dynarst is about to say something about the metal monster having left, but the other skaa seemed to be focused on something else. Grigor furrows his brow at the blood near Jowan's cuff. It wasn't noticeable at first against the dark fabric he wore -- which was similar but much less elaborate than the clothing the fainted man wore. A uniform of some kind? He knew Dynarst was one of the most skeptical skaa out there and for now, he doubted either of these two gentlemen were typical nobles.


"What happened?" he asks Dynarst while he drifts into a chair, leaving Jowan to his dinner.


Dynarst gestures with his hands for a bit, trying to find the right words to help him explain. "They fought off an inquisitor."


A short silence. "What?" Grigor suddenly perks up with interest. "How? Are those true, the rumors about nobles having mystical powers on par with them?"


"He -- the one who's knocked right out right now -- said that they're not from here, like, not from this world?" Dynarst frowns. "Crazy thing is, he can prove it."

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"Strange sand?" Elise echoes. If he had mentioned that first, then she might have been dismissive of his outlandish claims... but he had proved that the power he held was nothing like anything anyone in Luthadel could imagine. Even if he was trying to fool her, she doubted any metal would allow an allomancer to summon creatures out of thin air and dissipate them into a shower of sparkling light.


Burning brass, she extends a field of Soothing out around her to quiet down the fidgeting of the house guards behind her back. Inevitably, Mr. Fudo would have been caught in the field as well -- her skill was not great enough to exclude specific people -- though she kept the effect subtle enough for the guardsmen to not notice that their feelings were being pushed on.


It was important to keep a facade of strength, whether in a conversation or in the economic dealings of the Great Houses. She wished she could use the calming effect on herself to suppress her sudden bout of nerves and let logical thought float to the surface, but emotional allomancy could only affect others.


"An object... how curious." She gathered her thoughts out loud. "Luthadel is very vast, so it's like trying to find a hair in an ashmound. But wherever the sand is the most concentrated would be where the thing you're looking for is, right? Unless, that person has been running around with it this whole time, in which case, it would be difficult to find them if they've blended into the skaa slums." She shook her head. "I don't know anything about it, I apologize."


She really didn't -- everything seemed normal. Unless, no one was bothering to report it? Surely, other noble houses would have noticed it and might have shared information at the dinner party that night (or not, based on everyone's deceitful tongues). Not that it mattered. Seems like the party would have to be postponed, and the damage blamed on an assassination attempt.


The noble knits her fingers together, restless. Mr. Fudo left her in quite a predicament: based on what he was saying, his destruction of property was purely an accident... but they couldn't apprehend him because no one was willing to fight his pets, and he probably didn't have any money to give or reputation to take. Why couldn't he and his Junk Warrior have tumbled into a skaa settlement instead?!


"If we give you aid, will you assist us in repairing the keep?" she asks. "I will send a few of my soldiers with you to help you search and see if the skaa have any information."


Behind her, an older guard subtly waves with a few fingers for Yusei to come over once the conversation was over and Elise out of earshot.

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“Right,” he says, thankful for the reminder. He nearly collapses onto an empty cot and gratefully accepts the warm bowl of soup. “Thank you.” Fancy or not, the soup is far better than most of the meals he’s had recently, and that was when the guards remembered to feed him. 


He takes some time to begin eating the soup, but soon feels as though he should help Dynarst explain. “We… we aren’t from here, no. We’re supposed to be… saving universes by retrieving items, I don’t -- I don’t really understand it fully myself. Duke could explain better,” he says, gesturing towards Duke with his spoon. He looks down at his soup and takes another bite, trying to ignore the reminder about Duke’s unconscious state. 


“Oh! Proof, well,” he fumbles for a moment, dropping the spoon into the bowl to free up a hand. Balancing the bowl on his leg and raising his free hand, he focuses. The hand bursts into flame. He lets the flames linger for a few moments, then shakes it to put the flames out. “People can’t do that here, right?”


“Duke has this cube thing that can contact the rest of our team,” he says later, placing the empty bowl on the ground beside the cot and standing up. Blackness clouds his vision and he screws his eyes shut, waiting for the loss of vision to pass. Eating had helped, but he still feels unsteady on his feet, and he’s careful to avoid stumbling as he walks to Duke’s cot. 


“Sorry,” he mutters despite Duke being unable to hear him. Though he tries to avoid touching Duke’s chest while retrieving the cube (probably looking rather silly doing so), his fingers brush against it. Cube in hand, he returns to the cot that he had been sitting on, then realizes his error. “Oh.” Despite flipping it around and examining all six sides of the cube, he’s unable to figure out how it’s supposed to be used. 

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#Badu, Theo, Lara, Arch, Stan - Clockshop battle#


At the appearance of the monster, Badu is ready. She tosses her plague grenade to the back of the room, half suspecting it won't do anything because zombies typically resist blight. However, she hopes to draw it out to the front so others can beat it up -- but the sand creature is fast as it crawls along the wall towards the group and the grenade misses and explodes against the far wall, but the green gas from the bomb does have the intended effect of suspending a dangerous cloud of green gas over the equally dangerous gold sand.


Surprised by the initial appearance of the monster, Theo is momentarily stunned. Badu's grenade's shocks him out of his stupor, and with the green gas passing over the sand the monster begins to move, skittering towards him. He joins his spears together, ready to fight, and jumps, hoping to explode with thunderous lightning just as the monster comes within reach of him.


However, the creature's sudden movements throw him off balance; Theo jerks back in surprise when the monster suddenly lunges, and the movement of his momentum causes him to miss with his hit. He watches as his lightning, still not fully charged, awkwardly dances in the air for a moment before disappearing without any real harm.


Not having any time to mourn the disappearance of his attack, Theo snaps back to attention when he realises the monster is now reaching for him, sharp claws slicing winds into the air between them and reaching for his face. Throwing his spears apart, Theo manages to reach them up in time to block the attack of the monster's claws with his twin spears. Legios sparks in complaint to the counter, and the monster snarls in response to having been interrupted.


Shocked, but also annoyed, Lara steps away from Stan and picks up her board again. She feels it splinter her skin, but oh well. Lara doesn’t care about that now. She glances at Stan real quick, surprised to see that his eyes were glowing. Not having the time to ask, she readies the stick. This is certainly not good- she thought the rats were bad. Now here’s what she could have been, what she narrowly missed transforming into. No. Thank God she’s not one of these. Lara approaches Theo, who is being attacked by the monster, with caution but also anger. She makes her swing... and Lara's aim is true. While the monster is distracted, her board connects and the wood splits with an audible crack from the force of the blow. It falls back, landing on the ground in a crouch and leveling its eyes on the battlefield, watching.


The commotion in the back of the shop catches Arch’s attention. A beast, impossibly skinny with its hideous skin clinging to its frame, crouches on the ground as it snarls and snaps at Theo and Lara. Arch’s face is drawn into a grimace at the sight of the disgusting creature. With a wave of his hand, light shimmers around every human in the room as the fading shields he had given them earlier surge with renewed power. Arch steps around the counter, keeping his gaze on the monster. Sherrkyle obediently floats to his hand before he grasps the bow, ready to notch an arrow.


The sand creature seems intelligent enough to realize that its claws might not be able to pierce the glowing barriers that materialized suddenly, and so it springs into the air -- impossibly high -- and patiently hangs off the ceiling using all four limbs. It turns its neck at an unnatural angle to watch the group below.

Stan stays uncharacteristically still while information appears before his eyes as a visual overlay. A crosshair tracks the movements of the sand creature, seeking any hints about its strengths or weaknesses. It was fast, and it could climb walls, but much like the rats it could only attack physically. Compositionally, it was like any other undead, weak to fire and magic, and almost impervious to physical damage. 


He was a little disappointed. All this information they already learned when they faced the rats. Arch's shield was a good move that practically guaranteed their advantage. "The hardest part is hitting it! We have to corner it first! Physical attacks aren't that effective!"


Lara glares at Stan. “Well what the **** do you expect me to do now?” 


Badu also lets out a snort and says, "I can't reach the devil."

Theo was about to give a shout to Arch for the delay in summoning his barriers, however, his full focus was on the sand creature itself who had taken a temporary retreat. He combines his spears and with a furious yell he jumps and strikes the ground, shooting red lightning straight up towards the monster with an astonishing quickness.


Struck and shocked by the electricity dancing over its bones, the creature lets go of the ceiling but manages to right itself in mid-air.


Lara huffs and rolls her eyes, but she sees the creature being knocked off the ceiling and into the air by Theo. While it’s in the air, Lara rushes forward and makes her swing, letting out some of her annoyance onto this creature.


"Just keep doing what you're doing!" Stan shouts back at Lara. Even he wasn't sure if it was a genuine or sarcastic comment.


The sand tinkerer is about to land on its feet but is smacked before it could touch down. With a mighty swing, Lara manages to hit it on the shoulder and throws it off balance, tumbling backwards into the sand and the dissipating clouds from Badu's grenade.


Arch stills himself, wings poised, and aims an arrow. Slicing through the air and the clouds of sand tossed up from the creature's fall, the projectile flies straight and strikes the creature in the chest before dissipating. The sand monster shrieks from getting struck by the holy energy, causing Stan to cover his ears, before cracks of light appear on its skin and suddenly it explodes into a cloud of more sand.




Cam peeks out from behind the counter. Everything is still and eerily silent, now. She moves slowly and barely breathes, as if any noise she made would summon another flurry of chaos.


Badu places her grenade back onto her belt, now that it seemed there were no more threats in the immediate vicinity. She unclasps a few pouches and  fishes out some bandages. "Hold on, you're injured," she says to Lara. "Hold still while I fix your leg. I can never understand why someone would so willingly fight with so little protection."


Her deft fingers also grab a needle from her supplies, which she attempts to jab into the young woman when she isn't paying too much attention. "Antidote against blight," she explains. "Or rabies. You can never be too cautious."

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Yusei | Can We Fix It?


The guards noticeably began to relax, something Yusei wouldn't have paid much mind to - if it hadn't touched his senses as well. For a scant heartbeat, the focus of business and the tension of being in unknown territory danced with the desire to melt from his back. He half-lowered his eyelids and his frown hardened faintly. "I can provide some assistance in making repairs; it's only justified that you ask it of me," he stated, almost casually. A guard behind the child made a small motion.


The girl wasn't as at ease like the rest of her entourage, though she did make an attempt in the slouch of her shoulders and the shift of weight in her stance. Children were always more honest about how they felt without the use of words...


Bringing his left arm up, he pulled his deck free and quickly scanned the faces of his cards. Among the various colors, he spotted something that might be the most useful and drew it. With a brief flick, he re-homed his deck into the holder and glanced up at the damaged wall. "The spell I have..." he started, taking a moment to step closer to Elise after a glance at her shoulders. Stopping at her side, he tilted his head faintly to glimpse the girl from his peripheral. "I can't guarantee the outcome since this isn't its original design. However, the world has an interesting way of making things work.


"Stay out of the way," Yusei instructed Elise and the guards as he picked a second card from his deck. This one he placed face-up on his duel disk, rainbow light flickering as the Mark on his arm glowed once more. Beside him, a familiar pale blue circle of light expanded and a golem-like creature emerged. Green and slate gray with bull horns and a turbine-shaped tail, Nitro Warrior flexed its muscled arms as it towered above Yusei. The creature stepped forward, heavy footfalls making dull noise as it disturbed the layer of ash upon the ground, and bent down to grab the largest slab of broken wall. 


Pieces crumbled and fell from the edges as the slab was lifted, stone grinding against other surfaces until Nitro Warrior held it in place to the estate. Staring, Yusei considered the possibilities of the wall being repaired fully, partially, or not at all. His gaze drifted to the Trap Card in his hand before drifting to the guards who were focused on Nitro Warrior. "Lady Elise," Yusei began, his voice soft and low so only she could hear him. "You play a dangerous game with the emotions of others. You have too many tells that can betray you still...." It wasn't a threat.


Having multiple powers was rare, she had explained to him. Iron was her one proclaimed ability however, the guards had seemed too casual now, even as their charge remained shaken. Emotion was a tricky thing to control. And he had felt it himself, hadn't it? Not just once... He thought about before, near the start of the encounter. 


Setting the Trap Card on his disk, the surface flashed again and the broken wall began to glow. "Let's see if this works." As light crawled up from the ground, tracing the edges of the estate's impromptu doorway and that of the giant slab, other fallen pieces began to light up in turn. Magic stirred the air, the breeze tugging at his clothes and hair towards the building. Pieces of stone clattered and settled into places where they belonged, sealing with only faded cracks to chronicle the strange events of the day. 


When the magic died, the wall was again whole. 

Edited by ValidEmotions
Slight grammar fix

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Lara yelped the second she felt something sharp enter her leg. Badu had been mumbling something, something Lara couldn’t quite get since she wasn’t focused. There were so many things happening at once, things that made Lara want to go home and take a break. Maybe it’s because she almost died, but she just wanted to go ahead and take a nap. Now here she was with something in her leg, when she looked down it was Badu holding some sort of needle. “What the bloody hell? Why did you ****ing DO that???” she shouted. Maybe Badu had some sort of reason, after all, she WAS the doctor, but… What kind of doctor tries to medicate you without your knowledge or consent? Lara sighed, deciding against kicking her for that.


She looked around, curious about the state of everyone else. They all seemed varying degrees of shaken up, but their wounds were minimal. There were very few rat chomps on them, the lucky ducks. She had just realized how painful the bites were once she stopped worrying about the fact that she almost turned into one of those creatures. It sickened her to think that that was what she could become, what she almost turned into. She wondered briefly what Stan would have done if it did happen. Would he have killed the monster? Or would he have let it live the rest of its sorry existence in a shell, a shell of what was once Lara Croft.


Lara glanced at him, hoping he was alright. He seemed very upset when Lara fell in the sand, while everyone else didn’t even bat an eye. It hurt her to know that, somewhere deep down. Was she not a reliable asset to the team? Or were they just better at hiding their reactions? Or were some of them just so accustomed to death that it wouldn’t make a difference? She had to know this, maybe she would do some prying at some point, but for now, she was too tired to give a crap. She just wanted to finish up, find the others, and get a move on.

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Stan -- Clock Shop


Geeze... He'd seen some shady back alley doctors before but Badu was a special kind of shady. Guess that was what kind of a person a desperate, medieval-esque world without rules would have spawned. Glad he wasn't on the receiving end of that today. Once it looked like she was done throwing a fit over Badu's... unconventional methodology, Stan managed to catch Lara's attention.


"Hey," he said to her. "Good job."


He seemed like he was going to say something else but frankly, he didn't know what else to say. So he just settled with patting Lara on the head in praise as if she were a very tall child. He squinted his eyes in a smile, then went off to check on the rest of the team. Arch and Theo seemed to be getting on fine, with only the angel coming out of it with a small scrape one of his wings, and Badu was being... Badu. He went to check their companion, too, before he planned to try and give Duke and Cistina another call.  "I think we're done here, so let's prepare to move out," he commanded the group.


He went over to the other side of the counter, picking up his phone on the way. Stan crouched by the girl who had warned them about the sand, slowly, carefully, as to not startle her. She seemed to have metal powers like the inquisitors, but at the moment she was the complete opposite of those literal steel-eyed men -- small, defenseless, and trembling. His lips pursed. It was hard not to be empathetic to her situation, and maybe they should have taken her to safety first.


"Come on. You did good too," he softly said to Cam. "Since we got the hourglass, we should get out of here and to somewhere more safe."


She didn't say a word. Cam seemed to be staring into the distance, lost in her own mind. She didn't protest when Stan helped her back onto her feet, and he could feel her lean her whole weight on him as if she were about to collapse. He figured it might have been exhaustion from using her powers... but a gut feeling told him otherwise. But once they left the shop, where would they go next? This building might have been perfect for taking a rest, if it weren't for the sand both above and below them, and the streets were too busy, and he didn't want to risk going back to base because Duke was somewhere out there and he couldn't afford taking any time skips if the young man might still be in danger.


Suddenly remembering something Pascal had said before they left, Stan rapidly flicked through the menus the engineer had installed on his phone. He lingered on a specific screen, furrowing his brow in confusion. There was only one anchor again on the radar, and that was the one Lara had in her possession. Where did the other go? He pressed some keys, trying to get more information to show up. The yellow speck of the anchor was soon joined by three other red specks and another red speck quite far to the northwest. Recalling that they had three communicators here -- his, the one on Arch, and Lara's -- he deduced that the last speck must have been either Duke or Cistina.


Wouldn't know until he gave em' a call. He dialed back at Duke, recalling how the man was so excited at the gateway from his new toy that he had called Stan despite standing practically right beside him. "My knight in shining armour," he had said.  "Finally I can contact you after so many years without your voice. Once you finish terrorizing strangers, drop by to rescue your fair damsel."


If the situation weren't so dire, he'd pop the same line back at him right now: Hello, this is your knight in shining armor, it's been years since we've seen each other, please stop terrorizing the peasants, fair damsel.


Was that really only a couple hours ago? Damn, this world hopping was messing with his sense of time.


"Duke?" He tentatively spoke into his phone. "Duke, are you there? Status report." He waited several seconds with mounting apprehension. If Duke were conscious and had his cube on hand, he would have given him a witty reply by now. It suddenly felt hard for his legs to support his own weight, nevermind Cam's. "Anyone there hearing this? Please answer. Just lean in and speak normally at the non-threatening cube."





# Stay tuned for Part 2: Dynarst #

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Arch | Clockshop


Arch watched with morbid satisfaction as the monster let out a hideous shriek before the monster burst clouds of sand. Arch stared at the slowly dispersing clouds of sand for a few moments to make sure the monster was truly vanquished before commanding Sherrklye to close itself and float back at his side. That was one less problem to deal with.


Now that the monster was properly dealt with, Arch quickly assessed the situation. He could feel a sharp aching emanating from his upper right wing. Biting his lip, Arch unfurled the damaged wing, unable to hold back a sharp inhale as hot, stinging pain coursed through his wing. The wound was on the top of the wing right next to the alula. The gash itself appeared to be shallow, but it was a decent size right around 5 inches or so. The blood trickling down from the wound stained the wing’s white feathers, creating a damp red streak reaching all the way down to the bottom of the wing. Arch doubted the wound was severe, despite how it looked. He would endure just as he always had.


Careful to fold his wing as gently as possible, Arch gave Stan a brief nod when he commanded the group to follow. Lara, who appeared to have taken the worst blows from the monsters, seemed to be getting treatment from Badu while Stan spoke frantically into a cube similar to the one Arch had on his person. Realizing he had not spoken to his husband since the battle ended, Arch turned towards Theo.


“You aren’t hurt, are you?” Arch asked, raking his gaze down Theo’s body in search of injuries. He seemed to be unharmed, but it was hard to tell with all those layers of clothes in the way. While Arch would normally be fine with demanding Theo to take off some of his armor so Arch could properly inspect him, now was not the place to make such a request.

Edited by Doctortear

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[ afterword : theo -- ; ] 


As the monster shrieks, recoiling from the blow, Theo breaks apart Legios until he is holding dual spears once more. Fully prepared to attack again if need be, the knight stands at the ready and narrows his eyes, feeling the excitement of battle vibrate through his form in anticipation of an attack --


That is not to be. Arch's holy light fills the room, intertwining with the monster's calls, and then the creature scatters backwards frantically before dissipating into sand that scatters throughout the room, catching the reflection off of what little light streamed into the shop.


Theo lets out a breath he had not known he was holding, the tension in his shoulders dropping as he raises himself up to his full height, feeling the magic running through his blood come to a steady rest in the afterglow of war. Staring suspiciously at the seemingly innocent sand lying still between the cracks of the clockshop floor, he surveys their surroundings one last time. 


In the background, there is the sound of their teammates moving; checking in after the battle, trying to communicate with others of their mission. However, Theo brushes this aside and instead turns towards the direction of his husband, stopping only when he realises that Arch is already speaking to him. 


He blinks.


Usually he would not be this slow on the uptake, and it is not as if he is a stranger to battle -- no, he has lived many years and fought many demons, but perhaps a combination of their new environment and such strange creatures has him on edge. Theo forces himself to relax -- it is over now, and Arch is by his side. He does not want to turn around to only emptiness ever again.


With a quick spark of red lightning, Legios disappears as the lightning travels up his arms and disappears. Without a word, Theo takes Arch's hand in his own.


"I'm fine," he confirms, accompanied by a quick smile. He runs his thumb along the back of Arch's hand, feeling the smooth skin underneath, before a thought occurs. In the chaos of battle it is hard to remember exactly what happened, but he is nothing but attentive towards the people -- or person -- that matter. 


"Your wing," he says, shifting in an attempt to catch sight of Arch's -- now folded -- wings. "Are you okay?" 






Edited by Edelgard

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Lara’s heart broke some when he pat her head. All of that grief, all of that pain, just for a simple headpat when all is said and done? What was she, a bloody child?


Ah, yes. She was young, too young for him. There was no way Stan would fall for her, she was basically a child to him. He worried over her like a father over his daughter, and that was all she would ever be to him. Nothing more than just. A. Bloody. Child. While she refused to allow it to show outside, there was no way one couldn’t see the little glimmer of hurt in her usually stoic brown eyes. She sighed and put her fingers to her temple when Duke didn’t respond. Of course it was a source of concern for her, since she didn’t like to lose her teammates. Did anybody, though? ...Perhaps Badu, if it meant using the body as a test subject. She supposed Badu never gave a damn either way. 


Lara sighed and took out her own cube. She wondered if there was a tracking system for the devices, considering Pascal was very tech savvy. Perhaps there was, but barely knowing how to handle the device, Lara wasn’t going to be able to find it herself. But if this thing was able to detect where the anchors were, why couldn’t find Duke and the others? It only made sense, didn’t it? What did she know, she was from a more technologically primitive time period than, say, Stan. Hell, there were those she knew who were more primitive than she, but at the same time… there were people who were much more savvy. Who knew how well Lara would be able to navigate this damn cube in future missions? ...Ah, well, she was just going to have to keep using it in order to get better. She’d get there, eventually.

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Dynarst eyes widen. He gets really excited at Jowan's show of magic, those flame he sparked without a match and were now burning on his hand without hurting him. "See, see? There it is!" he exclaims, pointing with enthusiasm. "The Duke's abilities aren't this exactly, but to create blue walls that turn invisible. But you get the gist."


Both Grigor and Rhonda had frozen and looked at the mage, the former in shock and the later with the fear that he'd burn the house down. "No," says Grigor. "I don't think people can do that here."


They watched silently as their guest continued to eat, digesting the implications of things from other worlds and having a universe to save. When Jowan got up to fetch something from his companion's clothes, Grigor mutters to Dynarst, "Saving universes by retrieving items? That's on a whole 'nother level... And here you thought rebellion was far-fetched."


"Rebellion is," Dynarst snorts. "At least, everything that you've been doing up till now. There's no way a group of ragtag skaa can even stand a chance against the trained Garrison and turn itself on Luthadel. Yeden's insane, and we both know it."


"But you think two guys from another earth can do it," Grigor scoffs back. He lowers his voice. "And you think they'll just do that for us for free?"


Jowan made the five or so steps back towards them, and both Dynarst and Grigor sit up straight again, in silence. The otherworldly man held a strange block in his hand about the size of a big potato, white and perfectly cube-like with rounded corners, and fiddled with it in his hands, unsure of how to use it.


Then the cube spoke. Dynarst jumps at the noise; even Grigor is taken a little aback.


"Duke?" The cube calls. "Duke, are you there? Status report." Dynarst stares at Jowan, expecting the other man to know what to do. "Anyone there hearing this?" The cube continues. "Please answer. Just lean in and speak normally at the non-threatening cube."


"You do it," Dynarst urgently whispers to the mage.




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Jowan [ should have just let it go to voicemail ]

 "Duke? Duke, are you there? Status report."

The cube slipped from Jowan’s hands and he fumbled with it, struggling to catch it. It bounced off of his fingertips and clattered to the floor. He stared at it, hands still outstretched. 


"Anyone there hearing this? Please answer. Just lean in and speak normally at the non-threatening cube."


"You do it," 


Well. Did he have to? Because he really didn’t want to explain that in the short time they’d been away Duke had promised to aid a local revolution, fought two guards, destroyed a bridge, and fallen unconscious.


Seeing that no one else was going to touch the cube he leaned down and picked it up. He held it too close to his mouth when he spoke. “Uh, this is Jowan, hello. Duke is…” he paused, trying to think of a way to put it delicately. “Unconscious right now. But we’re safe!” He moved the cube away from his mouth (though it was still close enough for Stan to hear) and turned his head towards Grigor. “We are safe, right?” he stage-whispered before moving the cube back to his mouth and confirming, “We’re safe,” without waiting for an answer. "There were... some complications, but Cistina ran after the anchor?" 

Edited by Zor

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Arch | Clockshop


Arch glanced warily at the demon lance—because no good ever comes from demonic power—in Theo’s hands as he approached. Arch’s mouth pressed into a thin frown, disapproval etched into his expression. He opened his mouth to comment about Theo’s continued usage of the lance, but his husband, perhaps sensing the incoming complaint, grabbed his hand and inquired about his wing.


Arch’s frown quickly morphed into a small smile. Theo’s warm fingers gently rubbing the back of Arch’s hand soothed the angel’s nerves.

“M’fine,” Arch said softly. He raised his and Theo’s conjoined hands until they were cupping Arch’s cheek. “You know I don’t approve of you using that cursed weapon,” Arch said, peering at Theo from under his eyelashes. He closed his eyes and pressed his face into Theo’s hand. He pressed a kiss to Theo’s open palm, leaning into Theo’s touch.


Knowing that Ascelia could revive him should he fall in battle made it hard for Arch to care when his physical body got damaged. Each life in the mortal plane was temporary so any incentive to preserve his body was null. Despite that, Arch knew how Theo fretted over him. Even if Arch saw little reason to preserve his body, he knew Theo would not settle until he had the chance to maker sure Arch was unharmed.


Pressing a second delicate kiss to Theo’s hand, Arch opened his eyes and lowered their connected hands.

“Is everything alright?” Arch called as he turned to look at Stan. The man seemed uninjured, but there was a distinct note of distress in his voice. Arch wasn’t sure if he could properly reassure the human if he was upset, but he’d offer his services if Stan required it.

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Elise dropped her arms to her sides and stepped out of his way, her mouth agape as Fudo mulled over his cards and summoned another creature. She didn't expect him to offer his help upfront, much less act right away. What game was he playing? Instead of binding him into helping her, she was now contractually obligated to help him! If it didn't mean that the ball could go on tonight -- meaning she got what she wanted, in the end -- she would have felt a lot more insulted by his good nature.


She twirls a lock of hair absently as he calls her out on her actions, a look of uncertainty crossing her eyes. Even if he knew about the emotional Allomancy all along, he still chose to help her.


He really was from another world, she scoffed to herself. No one here in this town of vultures could be this nice.


"There's a Soother nearby," she admits, the lie weaving itself seamlessly out of habit. "That's another kind of Allomancy. Just like how Ironpullers can pull metals towards them by burning iron, Soothers can use brass to push on emotions." She presses the palm of one hand into the palm of the other to make a squishing gesture. "Suppressing them. Emotional Allomancers can't create emotions -- only enhance or suppress what's already there."


All eyes were on the miracle that the stranger performed. Even without the prompting of brass or zinc, all her men were staring in awe at the green, bull-horned golem. It effortlessly lifted the wall, which Yusei then sealed with arcane magic -- a spell. Even squinting, Elise couldn't tell where the keep had been broken in the first place.


A few heartbeats pass. "Thank you," she finally says, slumping her shoulders. A subtle movement: not her typical, dramatic manner. "Genuinely."


Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Stan -- Clock shop


Following a long pause and what Stan thought was urgent whispering on the other end of the device, a voice piped up in his earpiece. He winced from the volume and held his phone a little further from his ear to listen to Jowan explain the situation. Jowan! The new guy. How come it was always the new guys who were the most reliable of the bunch? There seemed to be other voices too, on the other end, as if Jowan wasn't alone. He just hoped they were friendly locals, and not because Jowan was being held hostage or anything (which, the more he thought about, the more likely it seemed that were the case).


"That's good, as long as that dumbass is still alive," Stan replied. Duke was probably just exhausted by his magic, which always happened when he bit off more than he could chew. "I ain't Natsuki, so I won't press you for details. We got the other anchor, so we're on our way to where you are. Sit tight! And keep a lookout for a four winged guy. In the meantime, I'll see if I can reach Cistina."


He lowered his phone and put that call on hold. "Arch?" he called the angel. Seeing that he was having a tender moment with his husband, Stan glanced aside and added, "and Theo."


The man took a few seconds to think of the best way to explain the concept of technology to these medieval fantasy-looking dudes. "You know the cube Badu gave you, right? If you flip it around to one of the sides and shake it a bit, you can see a display with red dots, which represent the trackers built into everyone's cubes. The big dot is you. There should be one dot that's far away from the cluster, and I'd like you to fly in the direction of that faraway dot and make sure the rest of our party is alright. How many people can you carry? Take whoever you want, and the rest of us will catch up on foot."


"And after we get that done," he sighed and slumped his shoulders in exhaustion, "we'll head back home for a nice hot shower to get rid of all this soot."


"Wait," Cam suddenly spoke up, snapping out of her stupor. "You're just going to leave after this?" she asks. Her voice was weak but still managed to communicate her indignation. "There's still so much... left here... The sand, the monsters, everything... And if there are other powers out there, can you fix the skaa, too?"


Stan's expression hardened. As much as he wanted to dust his hands of all of this now that they had the thing, Twilight would drill them into fixing the world properly once they got back to base. "We're just taking a break to regroup," which was true, "and we'll be back in the evening."


"Up for a little more walking?" he gave a half-smile to the group. "We're almost done."






"They're coming here?" Grigor asked, eyes wide. "First of all, how, and second of all, they'd better do it discreetly else we'll have the actual Garrison at our door, or worse yet, an inquisitor." Giving a hard look at Dynarst, he added, "If the Duke hasn't already got an inquisitor on his tail already. This is a safehouse -- if they sniff out our location then us, and everyone who relies on us, is done for."


Dynarst remembered Lefevre's strange friends in that alleyway, and it was hard to forget the massive wings of the glowing, clean angel. Mists, was that only a couple hours ago? So much had happened since they had split up. "I think the angel they're sending can take on an inquisitor," he thought out loud, ignoring the bulk of Grigor's concerns.

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Lara was still quite hurt. She didn’t like how Stan just pat her head and started moving along. Ah, yes, treat me like a child and then move RIGHT along. Go on ahead, Stan. Just like I’m your goddamned daughter. Never mind that I love you, you’re just going to toss me to the side like my feelings don’t matter to you. Wait, what did I just think to myself? Lara blinked a few times and stood there, hands on her hips. Stan asked if they were all good with walking. She toyed with the idea of just running off, meeting them at Duke’s later, but maybe getting into some fights along the way. Put herself into some danger, scare Stan again…. but it was all too ridiculous. Why would she lose her mind over something so stupid? It was just a head pat.


But it was that head pat that sent a wave of ire through her body, anger pumping through her body like blood. She had to keep it all in, but there was something about it that damn near broke her heart. Keeping her best composure, though, she took a deep breath. “Alright. But we need to have a little conversation.” She raised her eyebrow. “Preferably, alone.” Her heart raced, she could feel the adrenaline already coursing through her veins. But why was she so afraid to bring this up? Was she so afraid to show how she really felt that the slightest slip-up could leave her shattered? Perhaps, perhaps. Was she scared that Stan would lose any respect for her that he already had? Another perhaps. Perhaps it was the fact that she just didn’t want to confront him, that confronting people in general was an anxiety for her. The many times she had done it before, they were never pleasant, but this was on a whole new level. For her, there were many things at stake, but she decided it was best to have it all play out somewhere away from the others.

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Stan -- Clock Shop


Unexpectedly, Lara had approached him with the hourglass and just stood there in silence, crossing her arms and waiting, staring at him. It gave him an uncomfortable chill when he looked in her eyes for too long, so he averted his gaze and pretended to look at something else instead. 


"Right now?" he answered her request when she finally spoke. What kind of thing would be so urgent? "You sure it can't wait until we're safe back at base?"

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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[ lost in translation : theo -- ; ] 


Arch's skin is warm and real against his own, the angel's face soft in the space reserved only for them. Theo's eyes flutter briefly closed as he feels Arch's lips barely skim the edge of his skin -- a light kiss considering their present situation, but full of meaning nonetheless. The knight takes a shaky breath in, feeling his chest tremble with utter admiration at Arch standing before him, so calm and orderly even in the chaos, and Theo trembles with how much he adores this man. 


"It's to protect the people I love," he replies, soft and flexible like the moving rivers -- because he would flow like water in order to bend to Arch's needs, but he knows he cannot lay down his spear just yet. Not when Legios rises in his blood and his fingertips drum with otherworldly energy, devoted to the service of those he holds dear to his heart. 


But he will not push onto Arch the same sentiments, not when he understands how entirely the angel's love for humanity devotes him to the light. He may be associated with Shamilla and Ezekiel in a way Arch could never understand, but that is fine -- he does not need Arch to understand, not completely. Only to support him as he will continue to devote himself to the angel. 


However, Stan's words interrupt his tirade of thoughts, and Theo takes a second to throw an annoyed glare at the other man. "Carry?" he repeats, half to himself. To think that Stan would request such a task from one of heaven's messengers, and so casually -- the knight feels his blood momentarily boil before he schools himself into a smile at the easy acceptance on Arch's face. Very well. If Arch was insistent on helping these ... X-Dreamers, he will do nothing to make his husband's life harder.


"Medic," he calls instead, turning to -- Badoo? Beydo? -- and staring holes into the woman's plague mask. "My husband is injured. Accompany us to find the missing people." Theo spares a glance, well aware of Arch's presence behind him. "Please." He adds, almost as an afterthought, before turning back to the angel by his side. 


"Are you okay?" he asks again, more out of reflex than anything, before shaking himself. Without giving Arch time to speak, he talks again: "Perhaps you can carry ... the medic, and I will keep up on foot. I don't know how helpful this is going to be during flight," he finishes, casting a dubious glance onto his armoured lower half and his various plates of armour. Waiting for Arch's input, Theo looks at the angel anxiously. 

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She shook her head. This was something that was going to either get dropped and never get discussed, or something that would eat her from the inside out, hurting her more and more until her psyche was fully messed with. Or both. But she wasn’t about to let something that hurt her this much go. She knew it shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. She knew. Yet somehow, some way, this hurt more than necessary. Lara felt her lip quiver, and she bit it. As angry as she was, she was anxious. She glanced at the ground, then back at Stan. “No, I’m afraid it cannot.


The fact that her voice was so small shocked her. She was angry, wasn’t she? Certainly she knew how to have a stronger voice than that. But…. her heart sank. All of these emotions all at once, who was she anymore? She hadn’t been this hurt since Henry, who had taken everything away from her when she needed him most. Was this happening again, before anything ever started? It had to have been, this was what she got for letting herself catch feelings with a man so much older than she. Hell, this is what she got for catching feeling at all! What was she, stupid? Stupid stupid stupid! Yes, that’s what she was for putting down her walls! ….Calm down, calm down. This was going to be a civil conversation.


It can, however, wait until the others get moving.


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Stan -- Clock shop


He thought Theo shot him a dirty look, and it turned out that was not his imagination. The lightning dude really did object to Stan ordering his friend around. He sighed, defeated. It wasn't like he had much choice in the matter of giving orders or not, since no one else was. Badu's expression was, as usual, unreadable behind her mask, but she nodded and added with a chuckle, "I am glad you realize how much of an asset I am, uhuhu~"


Lara showed faint signs of urgency when talking to him, but Stan couldn't possibly imagine what would be so important to have it be done right here. He scratched the side of his head absently, mulling over her request but in the end he obliged. "If Arch is taking Badu and Theo is also following along, we'll need to find somewhere to keep Cam safe if we're going to have a... private discussion."


Cam gave him a stare as dark as Theo's, obviously unhappy that she was going to be treated like cargo.


"Hang on, one more thing," he said to Lara. He held up a finger, signalling for her to wait. "I gotta see if I can get ahold of Cistina first."


He quickly found the windy woman's name on the list, well aware of how Lara was waiting for him -- or waiting for everyone else, he couldn't tell -- and with an increasingly nervous pinprickling of sweat he dialed her number. If he were truthful to himself, he would have realized that he was just trying to put off the talk for as long as possible, under the pretense of 'checking in on teammates'.


"Cistina, are you alright?" he spoke into the phone. "Jowan mentioned you were chasing after the anchor. Are you safe?"

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Arch | Clockshop


Upon Stan’s prompting, Arch fished out the strange cube Badu had given him earlier. He followed Stan’s instructions, flipping the cube over and giving it a small shake. The cube lit up, a small yet adorable face briefly smiling up at Arch before fading away as the display popped up. The corners of Arch’s mouth lifted up as he mumbled a soft “How cute” under his breath. Just as Stan has described, there was a bright red dot in the middle on the screen. North of the big dot was a smaller, blinking red dot which Arch presumed to be the “Duke”, or “the dumbass” as Stan recently called him, that Stan had spoken of. Arch couldn’t determine the numerical distance between him and the small dot, but it didn’t matter. Arch was used to flying for days on end, only taking short breaks when necessary. He fly to the dot with little trouble.


“I will ensure his retrieval,” Arch said, looking over at Stan. “He will be safe under my care. That, I promise.” If there was one thing Arch could be certain of, it was his dedication to humanity. Even if it cost him his current body, he would make sure this Duke would remain unscathed so long as Arch was in charge of his well-being. Ruffling his stiff wings, biting his lip as he felt a sharp pain shoot through his injured wing, glanced over at the senior agents. The woman, Lara, appeared to be distressed by something. She said she wanted to be alone with Stan, worrying her lip as she kept her gaze steady on the older man. Arch watched silently as the two went back and forth. They remained civil with one another, yet Arch could not shake off the feeling that there was something that he was missing, an explanation or emotion he could not grasp due to his unfamiliarity with the other two agents.


“Are you okay?”

Arch blinked in surprise as Theo spoke up. The angel looked over at his husband with a soft smile.

“Didn’t you already ask me that?” Arch asked a hint of amusement in his voice. “I am perfectly fine.” Concern was etched into Theo’s face, his lips turned down into a stern frown. It was clear he was still upset despite Arch’s early reassurances and, well, that wouldn’t do. With Lara and Stan speaking amongst themselves, Arch took the opportunity to shamelessly step into Theo’s personal and leaned forward, his lips inches away from Theo’s ear. “Besides,” Arch’s voice dropped an octave. “I always feel better when you’re around.”


Arch abruptly pulled back, peering at Theo from under his eyelashes before looking down at the metal Theo pointed to earlier.

“If I do recall correctly, you aren’t exactly keen on letting others touch your armor,” Arch said with a raised eyebrow. “If you take your armor off, Stan or Lara would have to watch over it.” Last time Arch had seen Ezekiel trying to examine of the plates Theo wore on his knees. Upon catching Ezekiel, Theo had grabbed the plate and began beating it over Ezekiel’s head all the while yelling something about “grimy cat hands”. Arch shook his head at the thought. “No, I agree with you. It would be easier for you to follow me while I carry Badu. The less weight I have to carry the faster I can reach the target.”


Speaking about carrying people drew Arch’s eyes to the small girl standing near the counter. Arch had heard Stan say that they would return once they regrouped. There was no doubt in Arch’s mind that rallying reinforcements before continuing to lend their aid were the more logical decision considering the current circumstances, and yet Arch could not tear his eyes away from the sullen expression on Cam’s face. As infinitely old as he was, Arch had the misfortune of watching humanity at its weakest. He had seen countless humans wear the same expression that Cam had now; the look of despair as they watched their last chance of salvation whisked out from between their fingers. Arch was made to serve humanity. Every breath he took, every arrow shot, every life he took was all done in the name of giving humans the chance to live a happy, fulfilling life. Seeing a human, especially a tiny human who had only begun to see what life had to offer, look so distraught tugged at Arch’s heartstrings.


“Excuse me a moment,” Arch said. He walked past Stan and Lara completely blocking out their conversation as he made a beeline for Cam. Upon reaching her, Arch found himself forced to look down at her.  By Lau, he had forgotten how small humans could be. Wanting to make Cam as comfortable as possible, he kneeled down and lowered his head so they were at eye level.

“I’m glad to see you are still well,” Arch said softly in the tone he used whenever he was speaking to Jane. “It wouldn’t do my heart good to see you hurt.” Arch steadies his eyes on the girl, taking in her darkened expression. He had to remind himself that, despite her mature appearance and despite her assistance in the fight, she was still a child. There was a distinct difference between talking to an adult and a child. Even if Cam had been hardened by the harshness of reality her mind was still not fully developed. She needed to be shown the gentleness any child deserved and Arch was more than willing to shower affection upon a human.


“I understand that you’re upset with our leaving,” he began slowly. “It seems like we came to help only to abandon you as soon as we got what we wanted and that isn’t fair to you. Especially not after you helped us.” Arch paused, trying to figure out how to explain himself without going into too much brutal detail. “My kind, angels that is, was made to serve humanity. I exist to help humans whether it be by giving them directions to the village they’re traveling to or vanquishing the monsters who threaten their livelihood. Seeing the suffering of you and the common folk of this land breaks my heart. I wouldn’t make a very good angel if I didn’t help every human I came across.” Arch stared at Cam more intently, lowering his voice into an even more gentle tone. “I want to help you, Cam. I truly want to do whatever I can do these monsters and sand that terrorize you, but if I am to do that you’ll need to give us more time. Regrouping will allow us to regain our strength so we can be at our best before we lend our aid. I know it may seem we are leaving you behind, but I can assure you we are not,” Slowly, Arch extended his hand out, offering it to Cam. “I ask that you come with me. I need to find some of my companions before we return here and I can promise you will be safe so long as I draw breath. I will do everything in my power to ensure that you receive the help you need. All I ask of you is some patience. I promise I won’t leave you behind.” Truthfully, Arch wasn’t sure if he should be making these promises since he was by no means in charge, but he couldn’t help himself. A human was in danger. He had to help.

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Cam looks into Arch's eyes, but she can't maintain his deep blue gaze for long. Partly because it was impolite to look into the eyes of the fair-haired nobility, and partly because she was afraid of their complexity. Even in a glance, she was afraid she would get lost in them, trying to decipher his thoughts through those crystalline irises.


'I'm glad to see you are still well.' 


I remember the last time someone said that to me.


She grits her teeth and her lips tremble. A mix of emotions choke her throat as he whispers reassuring words in her ear about duty and humanity, and she hates herself for nearly getting moved to tears. She was never the type to cry -- not that her father didn't allow it, but she never felt the need to show her vulnerability in an unforgiving world. Her parents tried to shelter her and her brother using their affluence as craftsmen, but anyone with eyes could see that every day, people just like her were being treated like slaves. There were a lot more worse places to be and a lot more people seeking to drag them down. The less weakness she showed, the more protected she believed she and her family would be.


"I... I wouldn't be half as upset if it were the inquisitors hunting us down and stringing our corpses," she mutters back, absently grasping at his forearm and its white fabric. She squeezes tightly, as if she were afraid the angel would disappear into the mists, as mythological angels tended to do. "At least for that, we knew what to expect. All of this... sand, angels, monsters, all of this is just so strange. But... I don't think you'll be able to save every human in this world. There are so many. It's an unrealistic ideal, even for an angel."


She paused at the end of her thought, counting ten heartbeats and looking back towards the shop. 


"Thank you," she finally says, and follows Arch's pace as he prepares to depart. "Let's leave."




Stan -- Clock shop


He was unsure if he was going to get an answer, and he was caught by surprise when his phone's speaker began to crackle. He closed his eyes, furrowing his brow in concentration, trying to make out the words from the static:


"̛͜͡... ̶͝ŕ́͘͝ȩ́t͏̨̨̛́ų̕͘͞҉r͏͏͢͡͝n̷̢͝e̶̡͘d҉͏ ̶͝t̴͜͢͡o̶̶͢͏ ̢͘҉t̨́h̵҉e̶̛͟͡ ͝G͘͏á̡̛t͡e̢w̕͢à̧͠y͟;̢͜͠ ҉̸t́͝҉h͘è̕͢ ̶́͞ḿ̨͠a̵̶̕͠n҉̴̷̛ ̡̧͢͟c̸҉̷̕a̡͝r̶̷r̨͜y̡̛i͟͢n͝҉g̴̛̕ ̛͡t͜҉̷͢͏h͏̴̕͠e̛͜͝͡͡ ̢̢̛͡͝a̵̶͢͏ǹ̵̨́ç҉̀h͏͜ó̧̨͝r̸̨̛͞ ̸i̷̢̕͡s̷͜͜ ҉͡h̷́͜ȩ͟͡r̶ȩ̶̡͜͝.̵͢ ̛͡҉..̸̴.̨͏.͜.̵.̛.̡.҉͠.͜͏.̴͘.͜͞.̛.̡ ͟a̧̕͜͝ś̸̀̕͜ ̸̶͏̕ẃ̸̨̧ȩ̶͘҉l͘͝͠͡l̶̶̡͟,́͜͞ ̷̨͟a̸͢͜ń́͢͜͝d͘̕ ̢̨̕͢͠ţ̨͞͠h̢͢ȩ̸̧̀͜r̵̴e̡͢͝͝ ̴̡a̷̴͘r̀͢è̶̡͞ ͡ḿ̧͘͡a̵͡n̨̛͟͝y҉͘͟ ̵ą̨͜m̸̡o̷̧r̶̛͞p̕҉h̴͡͠o͝҉̶u̵͏̸́͠s̡̧̛ ̷̨c͟͠͞r̡ea͢t̸̢u̸͘͢ŗ͘e̵s̷̀͠ ̴̵̢́a̧̕͞r͜҉ó̵u̕͏̸̀͘ǹ̵͟d̷̸́͠ ̨͟t̀h̛́͝è̴̴͞ ̕͢҉͜t̡è͝l̀e͘͝p̀́͟o͟ŗt͡ ̷̕͜g͏̶̨͘a̛͢͜t̡̀̀e͜҉̡.̧͝͡҉"̛͢


He had only caught something about a gateway -- being back at The Gateway? The voice didn't sound too urgent and it seemed to be Cistina's. Reluctantly, he accepted the conclusion that she was in no real danger at the moment. Not anymore, at least.


"If you're back at base, that's good. We're getting Duke and coming back as soon as possible with the other anchor," he replied, uncertain if all of his message went through the cross-dimensional connection.

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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   [Mage, Skwerl] Is This Good or Bad?

The inquisitor approached the strange moving construct rather calmly, taking each step with a comfortable sense of purpose. Fiddlesticks' silhouette shone bright blue within its spotted, metal-sensing vision, a moving block of metal on silts that was... hollow? It had never seen anything like it, not even within the Lord Ruler's personal collection nor any of his creations. The city had been assailed with scattered cases of other strange creatures, but those were organic, puppets made from bones and skin. The Steel Ministry had been running its own investigation on the origins of the strange affairs, and Prelan Kar had ordered the immediate elimination of any of those hostile monsters before they could upset those stupid, oblivious nobles. These were tense times... Even the Lord Ruler himself seemed distant lately, spending more and more time in his chambers alone and gathering strength.


This one creature it was approaching was a tall, tall figure of steel and other alloys, nothing like the previously encountered foreign threats, and it was letting off a soft, idling hum. More importantly, it was staying put instead of attacking on sight. That thing's only crime was frightening skaa -- which was typical -- and wandering dangerously close to Kredik Shaw. The inquisitor lifted its chin and quietly circled the machine, curious.


  Fiddlesticks quieted as the person came closer and closer. He didn’t say anything, but she could distinguish now that the shoulders made him look like a man, and she didn’t see any extra appendages or weird colors. The silence was atypical though. Usually people ran at her yelling something, if they weren’t running away. Or maybe this was like the situation with the scientists?

  Those human scientists still made her wonder if most people were okay with new things or not. They didn’t panic nor attack, but were unusually calm and observant, like this man. He had begun circling her, still looking at her with metal eyes. Maybe they were an obtuse form of eyeglasses or prosthetic? It was too bizarre, how direct he was, but he hadn’t done anything yet…

  She kept a direct eye on him, never letting him stray too far from her peripheral. He was way too close now for turret fire, but as long as he was in front of her a quick bayonet swipe could dispatch him should he try anything funny. At the same time, she was too curious about the man to counter if he did attack. He wasn’t a civilian, or a police officer, or a soldier… he didn’t have weapons, or the same ragged clothing as the people she had startled earlier… he must be a scientist, right?

  Finally, Fiddlesticks gave the circling man a quick scan, the red light gleaning data from him. Skin, ink, metal, cloth… nothing she hadn’t already seen. There were extra metal pieces in the man’s neck and shoulders too, and three down either side, but their placement was beyond practical, so they couldn’t be some kind of device… maybe adornments, but who would want metal in the back of his neck? An anomaly showed up in his eyes too, but it wasn’t an electrical current like she had suspected. Her computer couldn’t make anything of it... some kind of wave??


The golem's front was also made of metal parts, like everything else. Through that, the inquisitor could see the interlocking parts shift and follow his movement. How curious. Unafraid of the creature's weapons, he slowly waved, reaching upwards and passing a hand over the sightline of that 'eye'.


"Hello?" he greeted.

  Fiddlesticks watched the hand move in front of her with fascination. The man was so calm! It was almost like he knew what she was, or at least was familiar with machines. That was unusual, considering how archaic everything looked... now that she thought of it, she has only seen one of him, and if he was okay with something as unusual as herself... was he teleported too?

  Don't assume things, she reminded herself, this man could have come from anywhere and have any intentions. She shifted in place, tilting her head at him. But should I be worried about him?... Well, it’s nothing two quick bites can’t fix, right?

  After several long seconds of caution, the mech finally echoed back, "Hello." She scanned him again, suspecting she missed something about him, but the results came back the same and the strange "radio waves" still hung around his eyes. So far, he seemed pretty harmless, and he sounded more normal than he looked. "Do you know where this is?" she asked him, withholding the urge to tell him too much right away.


At her greeting, the inquisitor raised his eyebrows in an incredibly human gesture -- despite the soulless, inhuman eyes. Not only could the metal construct track movements, but it also spoke perfectly in a feminine voice. "Canton of Resources, Luthadel," he answered. If it didn't know where it was, there was no point in asking it why it was here, so in an authoritative tone he asked a different question: "How did you arrive here?"

  "Can't-ton?..." Fiddlesticks mused quietly, turning to look at the building behind her, "Like canteen?" She wasn't sure what exactly that meant, but "resources" made her suspect the building - or at least this area - was some kind of sprawling warehouse. That was good to know, in case she's stranded for too long and needs to find fuel before she has to resort to bones again... that wouldn't be the best way to introduce herself. Judging from the answer, "Luthadel" could be the city, the land, or even the name of whatever nation she was in. She didn't recall any Earth cities called Luthadel.

  She grazed one bayonet tip over the other in thought when the strange man asked where she came from. How very direct of him. She was hoping to learn a bit more about him or this city so she had time to decide whether or not she could trust him; now she was pressed for an answer she didn't want to give. Last time she tried to withhold information though she ended up overheating like an idiot... she could try again and hope for a better result, but what was the point? If he was a traveler too then it's not like her answer would surprise him. There was also the possibility though that he was native and didn't expect random people to be teleporting in; if that was the case, mentioning she had lost two other people in transport would be a bad idea. Right now she didn't know what was more likely... Did he look like he fit in?..... Sort of...?

  She decided to go with an ambiguous answer: "I appeared in a fountain. And broke it. I would have fixed it but I'm not very good at that." She tacked on the explanation in hopes that the man wouldn't be mad at her; she couldn't control what she teleported into, right? Besides, she didn't really want to fix the fountain anyway.

  She stared at him a bit longer, still perplexed about how he could see her, which was exactly what it looked like he was doing. "Are you an engineer?" she finally asked, "Why do you have steel in your eyes?" She sat down so she was at eye-level with him. “You don’t look like you work with machines, but you seem to know what I am. Everyone else just ran away when I showed up.”


Which fountain? Did it mean the bridge? The creature of metal spoke with the innocence of a child and rained questions on him. All of those questions had highly classified answers that he did not want to risk her parotting to anyone, so he simply said, "It's a secret."


Close up and at eye level with the mech, the inquisitor's steelsight showed that it was hollow inside, with intricate metal mechanisms that seemed to allow its parts to move like the tiny parts of a watch. "I keep order in this city. Usually people run away from me."


Sent on a mission to eliminate otherworldly threats, and now he was speaking with one of them? Scoffing internally, he burned his brass to crush her curiosity and activated his duralumin. In a burst of explosive power, that metal's reserves were used up all at once. It was a pulse -- equivalent to the ancient strength of Mistborn from a thousand years ago -- that could send any living being into a depressed stupor, piercing even the protection of copper. It was the kind of pulse used to take control monsters made from hemallurgy, and the same kind the Lord Ruler used to snap his Inquisitors back into line when he needed to.


The metal thing, however, didn't seem to have any reaction to the Soothing effect, at least not outwardly. Given its... naivety, the inquisitor asked the machine, "Did you feel anything just now?"

  Fiddlesticks hummed in dismay that the strange steel-eyed presumed-engineer didn’t want to tell her anything. Although, it was intriguing that he said he kept order. Her extent of knowledge about peacekeepers was Typheus, human police, and the human government; she wasn’t sure if the Empire counted, since it wasn’t the best at its job. If this guy was like Typheus, then whoa, a goldmine of an alliance! If not, it would be best to eat him now before he called for reinforcements… the question was, which was it? She certainly didn’t want to eat the human version of Typheus if he turned out to be that way, even though he ought to be useful, having both bone and metal.

  Somehow that thought reminded her that she didn’t know what she was doing on this planet in the first place. She didn’t have a Plan B for when she discovered that this was not, in fact, Zirhon.

  Pah. If Typheus were here he would be telling me how stupid I am, she laughed dryly to herself. Why does he think I’m smart again? It’s certainly not because I’m a great planner.


  She averted her eye and pondered her next move, deliberately avoiding the idea of bonding with the man over people running away from them all the time. She was pulled out of her thoughts at his question of her feeling anything, which caused her to swivel around in bewilderment.

  “No?” she said. Did something hit me in the head again and I didn’t notice it? I can’t feel light things… should I say that? Probably not. “What was it? I was thinking,” she excused lamely, “wondering if…” She paused. I should probably find an obvious landmark so Typheus can see me, she realized, There’s no way I could see him past these rooftops. Hear, maybe…


  She had a zany idea. “Could you take me to the spires? Someplace up high? I’m looking for a friend, but this city is really big and I can’t stand up high enough.” She tried to look as innocent as possible, keeping her arms tucked in and her eye wide. Maybe the steel-eyed man would be willing to direct her to the spires’ elusive entrance? If he kept order here then he must know the streets pretty well.


The golem seemed to be as cheerful as ever, twisting suddenly and moving, humming merrily along and producing a sound similar to a massive swarm of flies.  "...Forget I mentioned anything."


He pictured the looming towers of Kredik Shaw behind him, and that was most certainly where it wanted to go if it wanted the highest point in the city. A higher vantage point barely offered any advantage, though, because those half-breed skaa always managed to evade detection by hiding in their ratholes far inside those winding, dark alleyways. "I cannot let you into the palace," the inquisitor said. "Describe your friend. We can help you... retrieve them."


  The mech dropped her guise to narrow her eye at the man. She has heard too many careful pauses in her short existence to think nothing of them. Now she hesitated further to describe Typheus to him, and second-guessed how friendly he was being.

  “I don’t need to go into it…” she said slowly, her eye flicking up to the palace, as he called it, over his shoulder. “Just on top, somewhere. He’s pretty obvious.” She recalled for a second how well Typheus blended in with the human cities, which was surprising, and added, “As long as he’s not beside anything metal.Although with that engineer with him, I could always look for spiky striped hair, too, she added to herself, remembering that Yusei had taken them here, but she didn’t want to give the steel-eyed man any clues about him since he is human. As mechs she was confident her and Typheus could handle any fights, but the last human-on-human fight she witnessed turned ugly rather fast. It would be irresponsible for her to tell him about Yusei.


Pretty obvious? This creature was being deliberately but understandably vague. "You may scale the walls of a nearby tower," he finally said, hands clasped behind him and steel eyes leveled at the machine. "But you may not go inside. I will accompany you."


He turned around and began to walk back the way he came. The path towards Kredik Shaw continued up at a steady incline, the hill steadily rising up and leaving the rest of the dirty city behind it. The hill was populated by an immense number of stone towers and turrets all pointing to the red sky with their sharp, gothic roofs, and all surrounding an equally intimidating castle that seemed to reach into the clouds themselves.


Already here they had a good view of the huge sprawling city below, where a million souls struggled and survived day to day. Here they could see the fallen Bronze Bridge, but the Inquisitor made no comment -- he couldn't see quite that far ahead of him.  

  Fiddlesticks felt a bit more accommodated when she was given permission to find high ground, although she found it interesting that she needed it in the first place. The man was certainly uptight about something, but it was easy to dismiss as her just being too unknown for him.

  The stranger turned and walked up the street toward the palace, and Fiddlesticks stood up to her full height and followed him. The occasional skaa sightings ceased as they ascended the hill - its slope was so subtle the mech didn't realize it at first - and she watched for any other people on the way, but it only seemed to grow more desolate even though the dilapidated buildings grew cleaner, more orderly, and more ornate the higher they went. She noted how they also grew taller, similar to how Earth's cities had skyscrapers in their hearts; so this palace must be the heart of this city as well. Unlike the skyscrapers, these buildings were not obviously geometric nor had many shiny or vitreous surfaces; instead they had a dark, grim, sort of "pointy" style to them. She kind of liked it even though she knew brushing against one wall would ruin all of its meticulous details.


  The closer the stranger brought her to the palace, the more it seemed to grow. The much richer district had wider roads and a more solid structure that only emphasized how grand the place was, and like its smaller neighbors, it was ridiculously ornate. Fiddlesticks briefly looked behind her to see how far up they were, and was surprised by the altitude: the city below them was swathed by a brown-grey haze that blurred it into a mass of dull color, slashed in two by a stripe of something wide and dark, like a river, and a red sun obscured by smoke hung over the horizon.

  Fiddlesticks stared at the view for a little longer, able to see just beyond the city at some kind of grey steppe, but imagining it as a sort of surreal badland. It seemed too fitting, the idea that out in the distance, there was a maze of canyons and mesas, with angular plants clinging to the sandy crevices and lithium scarring the rock faces… but instead it was just a flat, faceless waste.

  She tore her eye from the scene upon realizing that she couldn't hear the strange man's bootsteps anymore. She turned and saw him standing beside one of the many spires of the palace. She didn't see any guards around, but she also didn't see an obvious entrance, so he must have deliberately taken her to a more discreet place. Not that it mattered, with how little activity there was up here.


  The man didn't say anything, but watched her as she approached the tower, looking up its length to gauge how far she would have to jump. It was a smaller spire, but she still needed to power-jump several times to come onto its roof... hopefully all of the stonework was as strong as it looked.

  She calculated some compensation for an inevitable trajectory tilt, backed up a bit, and crouched down to tense up the hypercoils.

  FWOOSH! A kick and she was off in a spray of dust! It was a smooth ride thanks to her "jumping pad" having been such a clean area, but she could see the thicker part of the haze rushing up to meet her. A quick scramble at the apex of the jump made her catch hold of some of the spire's architecture and brace for another jump, which sent her through the haze, but not all the way up; she was on too awkward of an angle, and trying to compensate for it resulted in her losing a lot of altitude for the sake of grabbing the building again. A third power-jump resulted in the same way, and she was stubborn enough to try a fourth before grumbling to herself and deciding it was safer to climb. She wasted sixteen minutes doing so, trying not to damage the decorative architecture in case it fouled up her escort's desire to help her (although she scuffed it up plenty). Her rubber tendons relaxed when she finally found a ledge to clamber up onto.


  The machine made sure her footing was solid, before looking out over the city, flushing out her air intake. "Wow..." she murmured, partly amazed and partly disappointed, "I expected something bigger… it’s big for people with no automation, at least. Very pointy." She scanned the dark rooftops and their columns of smoke, which only blended them further into the landscape, searching for a telltale white shape flying around; he had to be flying, looking for her, right? Yet, the sky was weirdly empty. “Even all the way up here and I still can’t see Typheus..." she muttered to herself. She thought for a moment, entertaining the idea that he might be outside the city, way out in the ashy grey landscape, but she should still try calling for him, just in case.

  Fiddlesticks peered over the edge, checking up on her steel-eyed acquaintance. She couldn't see much of him at this distance, but he didn't look alarmed, so she stared out over the city, turned up her speaker volume, and deafened her microphones as far as she dared.

  ")Q)Q))Q)))Q))Q)))Q))))Q))Q)))))Q))))Q)))Q)Q)Q))))?" she warbled. Hello? I am here!

  Several seconds passed… then several more… Fiddlesticks scanned the horizon, waiting for a response.
  ")Q)Q))?” she began again. She paused, letting the beeps echo out over the city. He’s out here somewhere, right?
  Another moment passed unanswered; then, something flashed over the dark stripe cutting through the land. Fiddlesticks’ ears perked up as she focused on it.
  A light! It hovered for a moment, then disappeared behind a building and reappeared on the other side. Then a visible blue hue cut into it and the dot shot upright, hovering higher above the buildings.
  “)))Q)Q)Q)))Q)Q)Q))!”  she shouted at it, bobbing and waving her arms. The light perked up immediately at the binary. “Typheus!”

  The light didn’t give her a chance to call again; it shot straight for her! One second brought it close enough she could distinguish the wings, then the second defined his eye as a yellow blotch on a red-light-stained hull, then the third made his thrusters a little loud, and the fourth-
  “Stop stop stop!” Fiddlesticks squealed.

  CLAAANG! He slammed right into her! Her processes hiccuped from the impact and she slumped in his hands.

  “Fiddlesticks! Are you all right?!... Fidds?! FIDDS!!”
  “I’m fine!” she shouted feebly. She halfheartedly smacked him with a turret. Typheus’s expression was stern, but a relieved gasp escaped his speaker. The fact that he was still hovering so he didn’t crowd her off the ledge didn’t keep him from hugging her. “Mmph!”
  “I was afraid I lost you,” he murmured.
  “I… It was just a hiccup in the transportation…” she said awkwardly, her hull starting to feel warm. It must be the thrusters just a few feet from her face… He pulled away, his face beaming.
  “How did you get up here?” he asked, “Aside from the obvious.”

  “Well… I broke a fountain, and scared a bunch of people… then some engineer with metal eyes led me up here,” she summed.

  “Metal eyes?”

  “I think they’re bionic.”

  Typheus stared at her for a moment. Metal eyes. The Inquisitors everyone was afraid of. He remembered Stan mentioning them prior to the mission ever starting. It made sense that something that dangerous would be wandering around looking for troublemakers, and Fiddlesticks certainly caused problems even if most of them were collateral, but if it was so dangerous, why would it lead her up here?

  I can ask when she’s not teetering on a precipice, he decided, opening up his arms for her. “Let’s get you don’t before you fall and break something.”

  “I have shock absorbers, I can jump…” she mumbled, looking off the edge. He glanced down, noting how they were at least one hundred fifty feet up.
  “Fiiiine,” she groaned, batting at him teasingly. He half laughed, half scoffed, letting her tip into him, and he turned his thrusters up on full blast so they descended to the ground at a slow, safe rate. Fiddlesticks stared down at it past him, still feeling a little awkward.
  “...Hey, where’s Yusei?” she asked.
  “I had to leave him to find you,” he said.

  “That’s not like you. What happened?”
  Typheus hesitated, spotting a figure beneath them. Its eyes had a reddish sheen to them, brightly reflecting the shrouded sun over the city. He could see dark lines covering the person’s face, seeming to orbit the reflective metal.
  “...I’ll tell you later.”

Edited by skwerl56767

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The voice was breaking up, but it was a response nonetheless. Now Stan could cut the crap and get to explaining himself. But he didn’t seem to look back at her when Cistina responded. Lara’s eyes narrowed and she put her hands on her hips, the universal sign of “I’m actually going to kick your ass if you keep up this charade”. But she took a deep breath- after all, if she exploded, Stan would never forgive her. And further, it was completely unladylike to do so. She was a lady, after all, wasn’t she?


Her heart started to pound inside of her chest. There was something about this that was nerve wracking, but… she couldn’t pinpoint why that was. What was she so afraid of revealing that she was this nervous to talk to Stan? STAN? Someone she had known for long enough that most of the awkwardness had gone! This was different. She was too afraid to be too vulnerable- after all, this was the man she refused to admit she loved. What if that came out? Ah, she had plenty to lose if all went wrong.


But would it? The way he had held her…. Was there something he refused to admit to himself? After all, he did pat her head RIGHT after he hugged her like he was afraid to lose her. No, that was impossible, she was…. just a kid to him, right? Men. Always giving mixed signals. Lara cleared her throat, but in a cool, collected voice stated,


Now if you are finished, walk with me. I still need to speak with you.

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Mika Mage collab -- We just gotta talk...?


"Alright alright," Stan conceded, putting his hands up and raising his eyebrows defensively. With both members safe, he had run out of excuses. Stan waited for Lara at the shop's doorway, after Arch and his entourage had vacated. He regret not asking the angel to take him instead, as the de facto... leader of the mission.  "What's on your mind all of a sudden?"


"And by the way," he cut in before she could answer, looking at the lantern-like hourglass that was supposed to be an Anchor. "Can I take that?"


Lara sighed and handed it to him -- he nodded appreciatively. While she hated being cut off, she wasn’t quite sure where to begin. “Well, I have no need to hang on to it.” She wondered how she was going to say this to him. Was she going to be confrontational? Pin him to the wall by the shirt and start interrogating? No, no, that wouldn’t do. But she wasn’t going to be passive, either, no. She decided the best approach was to be blunt. “And… please tell me this as honest as you can. Why do you insist on treating me like a child? You realize you don’t pat a grown woman’s head, don’t you?


There it was. She wanted to run off and hide, but she kept that inside. Lara had asked her question, it was time for a response, an explanation, something. Something. At this point, a simple “I’m sorry” would get them both out of the conversation, but that was not the Stan she knew. And she knew herself well enough to know she wasn’t going to back out of this, she was much too stubborn. Once she began something, she had to end it too. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she wondered if he knew that too, how well he really knew her.


After all, he should’ve known that she didn’t like to be kept waiting, yet he kept her waiting for responses from the rest of the team. Of course Lara had worried for them, of course she did! But he didn’t have to keep calling for them. Had they responded while the two walked, that would have been a perfectly acceptable way to interrupt the conversation. But to avoid confrontation by using that as an excuse? Oh no. Lara didn’t like that at all. Henry did that. He did that all the bloody time, using excuses to put off important conversations. She remembered that clearly, avoiding the urge to make a disgusted face at the thought. Instead, her brow furrowed. She was clearly anxious, among her anger and her hurt, but her eyes were the only other thing making that clear. They always betrayed her, those eyes of hers. Going from frozen cocoa to melted fondue, they had to show everything she was feeling. Ah, well. Stan rarely made eye contact with her today anyway.


"That's what you're mad about?" He crossed his eyes and nearly stopped walking, in his astonishment. It was so out of left field that he started laughing, and so small of an issue that he relaxed his posture. "Of all damn things! Hell, I thought you were going to tell me something actually big and important!"


Important, like the end of the world(s), or the aftermath of a near death experience, or some vital information he might have missed. Not some petty misinterpretations.


"You realize," he parroted her words back to her, "that a headpat is a universal gesture of love and appreciation. You're reading too much into it."


Lara nearly snapped at him when he mimicked her. She grew silent for a moment, calculating her response. What was she to say? That it ****ing broke her heart that he’d resort to such a gesture? Or that it hurt to know that her feelings were now being pushed aside— Love and appreciation? Love? No, now she was reading too far into it. “Love, eh?” She snorted. “You’re right, I’m just being petty. I’ll just not discuss my feelings with you anymore, yeah?” She started to pick up the pace. No. No. She was not going to have an outburst. She was not going to be more vulnerable than she already was. No. No. No. He was making her angry, by not respecting how she felt. It was all just a joke to him, ALL OF IT. Her ears started to heat up with mortification and rage, but she refused. She had to keep control, no matter what.


"Since when have you talked about your feelings, anyway?" Stan snorted. "Miss always-keep-my-cool. Hey, hey! Do you even know which way you're going?" He called after her, but he also felt like he should let her go and cool off on her own.

I have my tracker, ya daft git,” Lara snapped back, continuing to move and look at her tracker. She needed to cool down. He was too dense to understand, and him coming at her like that wasn’t helping. Her steps felt heavier than usual. So did her heart. She didn’t know what she needed more- to be held or to be left in peace.


"Fine..." Stan muttered. He grimaced, holding back a comment about how she only learned about the tracker less than five minutes ago, and let her go off on her own. He trusted her to take care of herself. Wasn't that enough? At the same time, it would have been a bad choice to split up again in case they faced trouble. If they didn't split up, they wouldn't have needed to go and rescue Duke...


...Forget it. He stopped walking, frustrated and slightly pissed off, and watched her go. If she's going to act like a kid for thinking that I treat her like a kid, then there's nothing more to add to this conversation.

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